21 June 2023

AUN-EEC organizes a webinar on ASEAN ecosystems and environmental education

Thematic Network contributors;

By Raul Javier H. Baquiran, AUN-EEC Secretariat

Last 12 April 2023, the ASEAN University Network on Ecological Education and Culture (AUN-EEC), housed at the Ateneo Institute of Sustainability (AIS), organized a webinar entitled “From Rivers to Streams: A Situationer on Ecological Education and Culture”. The webinar marked the first event of AUN-EEC under their year-long theme on “Ecosystems Restoration & Reconciliation Ecology”, which is itself situated against the broader setting of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration running from 2021-2030.

For her welcoming remarks, Dr. Maria Assunta C. Cuyegkeng, Executive Director of AUN-EEC and Professor at the Department of Educational Leadership and Management at the Ateneo de Manila University (AdMU), emphasized the role of ASEAN HEIs in developing a generation that is more recognizant of the links between human activity and the environment. She regarded the webinar as a step forward in the process of molding the distinctive mindsets needed for environmental stewardship. Moderated by Dr. Inez Z. Ponce de Leon from the Department of Communication, the event was split into two complementary parts, with one talk focusing on the state of ASEAN ecosystems and a second on environmental education and communication. 

For the first talk, Dr. Neil Aldrin D. Mallari, President and Founder of the Center for Conservation Innovations, Inc. highlighted the ASEAN region as a megadiverse hub of biodiversity and asserted that such biodiversity can be used as a barometer to examine the state of ecosystems. Using the Philippines as an example, he showcased how endangered birds act as indicators of anthropogenic and natural threats to entire ecosystems, and how geographic envelopes of high species diversity coincide with areas of preserved forest habitats. Dr. Mallari ended by warning the participants of a looming ecological amnesia where future generations born into depleted ecosystems become further detached from the link of nature and survival.

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Next, making reference to the title of the webinar, Dr. Alona Linatoc, Associate Professor at the Department of Forest Biological Sciences at the University of the Philippines Los Baños, discussed the challenge of disseminating environmental education to sectoral “streams” of society. Amidst progress in institutionalizing environmental education in ASEAN schools, Dr. Linatoc also acknowledged that issues continue to linger, particularly in the gaps between environmental awareness and action. Drawing from programs that she worked on while based in Malaysia, Dr. Linatoc underscored the importance of engaging with traditional ecological knowledge, experiential learning, and cross-cultural encounters in fostering environmental understanding and responsibility.

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The presentations were followed by a brief open discussion wherein the speakers were allowed time to answer questions posed by the audience. Discussion points ranged from responsible approaches to balancing economic development and biodiversity preservation, to political and social obstacles that hinder the advancement of environmental agendas. The speakers’ also reminded the audience that effective environmental change is both an individual and an intergenerational commitment that must be built upon collective and intimate identification with nature. 

In addition to the webinar proper, the event also included the official opening of membership applications to the AUN-EEC, as well as a call for submissions of environmentally themed outputs as part of “Baligtarin Mo!”, Ateneo's own venture into applying experiential learning to environmental education. Tihe online event was attended by more than 300 participants, with international attendees originating from Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Brunei Darussalam, China, and Pakistan. The network’s next public event for the year is the AUN-EEC Conference, which is set to take place on 16 August 2023, with abstract submissions to be opened by May 1.

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The recording of the webinar can be found here.